|Now that Ted Ballard is retiring after 19 years of service at the West Custer Library, many folks are asking what the Library will be like “without Ted!” Ballard though, wonders what his life might be like “without the Library!” Although, in his words, a lot of “Mr. Mom” projects and needs await him at home, he asks himself, “Am I really gonna be gone?”
Ballard is currently the longest tenured staff person at the Library, and has both seen and implemented many changes in library services and programs over his two decades of experience.
Earlier this week, he was just finishing up installing some new computer stations, part of the “ordinary” now for a community library. “When I was first working here,” he recalls, “there was a very simple system…It is so different now, so much resource sharing has developed over the years…As one of the 115 plus libraries in AspenCat, we empower patrons to do so much more.”
Although he has been the go-to staff member for IT matters, it has really been the personable people side of his career that Ballard most cherishes. “I’ve watched patrons grow up in the Library setting; toddlers years ago are now parents—seeing that has been quite an experience.” He especially notes the way the Library has transformed over the years from a place with books to loan into “an information center, part of the whole community; we’re more than we ever have been…adult services, youth services, a safe place to meet people, to hang out while getting the car fixed…This is a family of patrons, a hub for the many spokes of our lives…”
Ballard speaks highly too, of the “family of staff…we pitch in, help each other out. And I’ll now be here as a patron!”
Continuing to muse on the place and the multiple services the Library has become during his many years, Ballard notes “there’s so much the Library does; I’ve helped with it all, from printing out a bar code, to confirming airline tickets—the gamut is unbelievable, really.” And laughing, he adds, “We don’t do ‘Shush!’”
One of his lasting legacies will be the continuation of “Ted’s Weather Websites,” at westcusterlibrary.org, by way of the “Online Services” link. An Air Force meteorologist during his military career, Ballard has seen to it that his personal and professional system of interests, information gathering, and focus have never been bereft of weather and climate attention. “We actually responded to the community and to patron requests,” he says of his unique contribution to Library services. He is also quick to add though, that he does not have National Weather Service resources at hand, “so this is for informational purposes only!” But that “information” has been key to the community’s recognition of the Library as indeed a friendly place for all sorts of inquiries—including, “What’s the weather report, Ted?”
Remembering physical remodeling and the addition of technological advances, the streamlining of patron experience, cataloguing and making available local historical photographs and documents, the elimination of problems and kinks one by one over the years, and all the myriad matters of his significant service, Ballard really seems most wistful and fulfilled in knowing “both I and the Library will continue in this community.”
When asked what he might like us to hear from him as he leaves this part of his professional life, Ballard quietly smiled and recalled a tattered t-shirt he still wears from time to time. It reads, “The Library Needs You! You Need the Library!” He ends the story with a shout out to us all: “Keep supporting your Library!” We have an opportunity to express our gratefulness for his work and service by joining Ballard and his Library colleagues in a celebration next Monday, April 23, at 5 p.m. in, where else!, the Library, specifically, the Community Room. Come on by, to wish him well, to share a story of how he and the Library have shaped your interests and knowledge, and to participate in this fitting community event.
– W.A. Ewing